Pushback: Solomon to split marijuana baby

Al Norman

Al Norman


Published: 05-15-2024 10:41 AM

A public drama was performed on April 11 in Greenfield City Hall. The script ran for 90 minutes without intermission.

Act I: A marijuana cultivator,15 Arch Street, LLC, asks for a “change of use” to add marijuana product manufacturing to their special permit for an indoor cultivation granted by the Zoning Board of Appeals in 2021.

Neighbors complain to the city about noise from the industrial-scale condensers that abut their homes. The cultivators explain: “The grow lights generate a lot of heat. We need very large conditioners to cool the room down to a temperature so the plants don’t die. We realized they were kicking on and off about every five minutes.”

Act II: ZBA Chairman David Singer invites neighbors to testify: “I’ll recognize people to speak. I’d like it to be directed at the board. If you have questions of the applicant, that’s fine. Say what you feel but please be respectful and please keep it clear and as succinct as you can … I’m not going to have a clock. I’m not going to time you. I want to give you a chance to speak.”

“Last May,” an Arch Street abutter begins, “that was probably the thing we could smell — pot all the time. We didn’t want to smell pot in our own backyard …We have a back porch we used to use until last year as a bedroom in the summer. We cannot use it anymore because of the constant noise. We had to get an air conditioner put in a bedroom. Now in the summer we have four people sleeping in our one bedroom. We had to keep the air conditioning on until October because we cannot open the windows. We cannot go out. We go into our backyard, we have to listen to the sound of their compressors going all day long. The noise is just unbearable. We leave a radio on in our bedroom and the boys’ bedroom so that we can sleep.”

Another abutter adds: “I have not been able to use the front part of my house because it faces their facility. The two front rooms, both the downstairs and the upstairs, are unusable to me … Of all the marijuana facilities in Greenfield, this is the only one that’s in a residential neighborhood.”

Most dramatic is the testimony of Mayor Virginia Desorgher. “My heart goes out to the families here … It’s life-altering for the family and the people across the street. If I had to listen to that all day I would go crazy … I was on the Planning Board for six years and I looked at this place and I felt like I was going to cry. It’s one driveway width away from the other person’s home … I just wanted to say out loud that I’m extremely saddened by what has happened to the families on the street.”

The cultivator then shares his frustration: “Since the beginning we have tried to be good neighbors. The three of us own the business. We funded this thing with money from our friends and from our families. We are just trying to run a small business… I’ve tried to address every single issue.”

Act III: Chairman Singer closes the hearing. “I don’t feel that Solomon feeling of knowing exactly how to do this at this point. A lot of it seems to be misunderstandings between the neighbors and the business … I wonder if time would be a factor for these folks to try to come up with something among themselves that might be reasonably presented to the board, rather than the board split the baby at this point. If they don’t work it out, we’re going to have to do something. Whereas if we give people another 30 days, we have time to let the parties try to figure it out. Maybe they could build some trust communication. If they can work some things out on their own, maybe we can reach a better place. I would encourage the neighbors to sit at least once with the owners, please, and listen to what they have to say. And you, the owners, please, listen to what they have to say. See if you can come up with something that’s workable.”

Tomorrow, May 16, at 6:30 pm, you can watch the ZBAmeeting link to see if Solomon has to split the baby. A board chairperson urging citizens and business owners to “build some trust communication” is what every other city board and committee in Greenfield needs to emulate. Start by throwing away your time clock.

Al Norman’s PUSHBACK column appears twice each month in the Recorder.